Three words to describe the outstanding cuisine at Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen, the latest addition to New Canaan’s Restaurant Row. This twenty-eight seat restaurant / pizza bar is already making its mark on the culinary landscape of New Canaan.
Executive Chef Mogan Anthony and his team are creating vibrant flavors and textural contrasts in many of their dishes, intermingled among other selections that are pleasantly soft and mild.
The interior design, with a strong focus on organic materials, creates a cozy and inviting environment with guests choosing between table or bar seating. In full view of the dining and bar area is the beautiful, hand-crafted ceramic encased Stefano Ferrara wood-fired brick oven.
Joining Chef Mogan in the kitchen is Chef de Cuisine Ruben Liriano and Chef Antonio Legato oversees the wood burning pizza oven. Chef Mogan gained his training at the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore and subsequently under Chef Jean Georges Vongericthen in three different locations, plus the Bedford Post and Village Social in Mt. Kisco.
Chef Liriano fine-tuned his craft at A Voce in New York and spent six years under the tutelage of Mario Batali, most recently at Tarry Lodge in Westport. Chef Antonio is a third generation bread maker whose love for breads and pizzas started as a child. He perfected his art by obtaining APN (Authentic Neapolitan Pizza) certification, adhering to the strict standards of ingredients and methods of pizza makers (pizzaioli) for over 150 years.
The menu includes a variety of small plates, larger entrées, and six pizza combinations.
We started the evening with two selections from the “Vegetables” section. While both presented a high level of crispiness, they were extremely different in their respective flavor profile. The “Fried Shishito Peppers” arrived nestled in a dollop of Romano aioli and finished with sesame seeds and a sprinkling of Halen Mon sea salt. About one out of every ten Shishito peppers is very spicy (many describe eating a plate of them as spicy “Russian Roulette”) so we worked carefully through this dish...fortunately, there were no “loaded chambers” on our plate. Each of the peppers was crunchy, mild in spiciness and the aioli added a soothing creaminess while the sesame seeds added a second level of crunch and a good nutty-earthiness.
The second vegetable dish was the “Brussels Sprouts,” which was served atop Mortadella cream and Px sherry and finished with crumbled pistachios. The Brussels sprouts were first sautéed, then the Px sherry was added and reduced to concentrate its inherent sweetness. The end product was a crispy exterior and a sweetness that worked unexpectedly well with the Mortadella cream, which added numerous flavors and a touch of tanginess. The pistachios supplemented the texture with further crunch and nutty-goodness.
Our second round of “Small Plates” included three outstanding choices. The “Pistachio Crusted Tuna” included four slices of perfectly seared tuna sitting atop yuzu mustard, and finished with scallion sections and New Canaan Olive Oil. The pistachio crust was a delicious change from other crusted-tuna dishes that many restaurants are serving. The yuzu mustard was a unique combination that combined the citrusy notes of the yuzu with the spiciness of the mustard to create a fantastic combination.
Meatballs are also a popular item on many menus and Locali’s “Umami Meat Balls” are outstanding. The meatballs were soft and delicious and served with cheese curds and toasted polenta. The cheese curds replaced the traditional ricotta, and offered a bit of a tangy background. The polenta was first toasted to intensify the flavors and then slowly rehydrated. The nuttiness and crispiness from the toasting of the polenta added contrasts that were a perfect complement to the meatballs.
I order octopus whenever it is offered and Locali’s “Octopus Fra Diavolo” is one of the best. Chef Anthony enhanced the soft pieces of octopus with a spicy tomato sauce and then added a tangy element with the buttermilk Dolcelatte. While many chefs crisp the exterior to offset the soft interior, Locali’s octopus was soft throughout. The potatoes were a nice addition and added another soft component. The octopus was outstanding.
While we waited for our pizzas, Chef Ruben brought a dish that he is currently developing; Squid Ink Pasta with Squid in a red sauce. Large bowtie-shaped pasta was paired with julienned squid and served in a red sauce. This was a great combination that will be enjoyed by many as soon as it graces the menu and reminded me to include pasta dishes on my next visit.
We sampled two pizzas; the toppings were exceptionally fresh and the flavors were outstanding. The “Margherita Pizza” was a traditional combination of San Marzano tomatoes, Locali (house made) Mozzarella and finished with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. The crust was delicious, the texture maintained just a small amount of bite and was nicely charred. The center of the dough was not as crispy and I would expect this was the result of the newness of the brick oven continuing its curing process. The “Wild Mushroom Pizza” was a simple combination, showcasing a variety of exotic wild mushrooms accented with garlic and combined with Locali Mozzarella and Pecorino Tartufu. The mushrooms delivered a wonderful earthiness and the garlic and cheeses were perfect complements to the pizza.
And when the server approached and asked if we would like dessert, we chose two, the “Salty Caramel Pie” and the “Tiramisu.” The desserts were all created by Chef Mogan’s wife, Seleste Tan, who formerly worked at wd~50 in NYC and the Four Season Hotel in Singapore. The salty caramel pie was a tribute to sweetness and textures. The filling was a smooth caramel-custard and the crunchy crust was a perfect complement to the sweetness of the filling. It was served with a little whipped cream, a slice of strawberry and dusted with powdered sugar. We enjoyed the “Tiramisu,” which was served in a large glass. This was a light and creamy rendition, with rum as the primary flavor. Both of these desserts were delicious.
Locali is a tremendous addition to New Canaan’s Restaurant Row. The food presents an array of flavors, from mild and mellow options to tantalizing choices with bold and complex combinations; each work well in highlighting the flavors of each of the ingredients in the dish. The pizzas are delicious, traditional Napolitano thin crusted gems that use the freshest ingredients to showcase their natural flavors. The food and vibe at Locali are fantastic and this will be a go-to restaurant in New Canaan.
Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen - 32 Forest Street - New Canaan, CT 06840 - (203) 920-1440
- Brussels Sprouts
- Umami Meatballs
- Octopus Fra Diavolo
- Farfalle with Squid
- Margharita Pizza
- Salty Caramel Pie
- Shishito Peppers
- Pistachio Crusted Tuna
- Wild Mushroom Pizza